We seldom realize how much what we call high culture owes to the mournful, productive type of person with the potent combination of melancholia and energetic initiative. In today’s terminology, we would tend to locate such character images in the region of schizoid structures. They are typical of people who, in psychoanalytic terms, are “born incomplete.” Nothing is more normal for them than being remote from any kind of normality. Their realism is manifested in their tendency to move in the shadow worlds of reverie. By indulging the inclination to encapsulate themselves in webs of moods and conjecture, they sometimes come up with world-shattering revelations.
A first enlightenment came about when the spiritual teachers showed that humans are not so much possessed by demons as controlled by automatisms. They are not assailed by evil spirits, but by routines and inertias that force them to the ground and deform them. What impair their reason are not chance errors and occasional errors of perception – it is the eternal recurrence of the cliches that render true thought and free perception impossible.
Next to Gautama Buddha, Plato was the first epidemiologist of the spirit: he recognized everyday opinion, the doxa, the pestilence that does not kill, but does occasionally poison entire communities. Empty phrases that have sunk down into the body produce ‘characters ‘. They mould humans into living caricatures of averageness and turn them into incarnated platitudes.
Whoever goes in search of humans will find acrobats.
In this essay an aphorism is presented, and the essay itself is a commentary on it. Of course, in order to practice this style of reading as an art, one thing is above all essential—something that today has been thoroughly forgotten (and so it will require still more time before my writings are “readable”)— something for which one almost needs to be a cow, at any rate not a modern man— rumination.
An obvious predominance of images and aesthetic patterns exists today, not only in the current shaping of reality addressed so far, but in the current mediation and apprehension of reality as well. In earlier times, to count as being real, something had to be calculable; today it has to be aesthetically presentable. Aesthetics has become the new leading currency in the reality trade.